5. Strategic Engagement and Impact
This chapter looks at:
- The strategic work projects have been doing with local authorities and other partners.
- How projects have been supporting clients to influence policy and practice.
Several projects were involved in working groups focused specifically on the implementation of self-directed support. Strategic involvement was not always through specific groups but sometimes through regular, less formal discussions with service planners or commissioners.
Projects had different views on the success of their attempts to influence local policy and practice. Some thought they had had little impact, others (including some feeling their impact had been limited) pointed to changes in practice locally as a result of their work. A small number of projects were able to point to influence they had exercised at a national level (around developing accessible information).
A number of projects had been supporting service users to have their voice heard and influence how self-directed support is being implemented in their local authority area or more widely.
Strategic work with local authorities and other key partners
Building relationships with local authorities and other statutory services was not only aimed at developing effective referral relationships, but also at making an impact on policy and practice.
Some projects had a direct presence on groups working on the implementation of self-directed support in their area. Other projects were part of organisations that were represented on such group. Similarly, some projects had a direct presence, or were part of organisations that had a presence, on other strategic working groups in the health and social care field. Examples included groups working on health inequalities or the issues affecting carers. SIRD projects also sought to feed their perspectives into planning or strategy groups through partner organisations which represent the voluntary sector on Integrated Joint Boards or other groups.
Some projects reported that their local authority had not invited them to join relevant working groups, although some had still attended at the invitation of other third sector members. These projects felt they were being excluded from these types of groups because they had been active in challenging social work practice.
Reports from projects suggested significant variation in the progress and ongoing work of strategic groups overseeing the implementation of self-directed support. Some such groups were reported as functioning effectively with wide representation from the third sector. Other projects reported that such groups had been brought to an end or placed in abeyance. In one case it was reported that the implementation group had been wound up because the local authority had taken the view that the necessary work had been completed, and by extension that the self-directed support approach was fully operational. In other cases, projects suggested that joint working had stalled because of a shift in focus onto health and social care integration or because key personnel had moved on and not been replaced.
Projects’ strategic engagement was not just through formal groups but sometimes through regular but less formal discussions with key local authority service planners or commissioners
Projects had different views on the success of their attempts to influence local policy and practice. Some felt that they had had little impact, some (including, notably, some of those feeling their impact had been limited) pointed to changes in practice locally as a result of their work. Examples of the types of changes SIRD projects had been involved in included:
- The redevelopment of assessment forms.
- Being involved in the redesign of day services for young adults with learning difficulties.
- Working with a local authority around ensuring that people are able to access the equipment they need more quickly.
- Responding to a letter sent by a local authority to people on Option 1 that they considered to be problematic in tone and content and against best practice.
In the last case, the project had been supported by Self-Directed Support Scotland and Inspiring Scotland, and another organisation hosting a SIRD project, to engage with the local authority. The project has now been invited to be involved in the drafting of planned new guidance for those on Option 1. However, another SIRD project reported that other local providers, and indeed local people on Option 1, had been reluctant to challenge a shift in policy and practice by their local authority.
Some projects were able to point to influence they had exercised at a national level, in relation to:
- Clarifying and lobbying on issues around self-employment for Personal Assistants ( PAs).
- Influencing, through engagement in working groups, discussions on accessible information.
Projects did report barriers to influencing national practice. For example, a project involved in the delivery of personal development courses had started with the ambition of seeing their model replicated across the country. However, they had found it very difficult to devote sufficient time to building the necessary relationships with local authorities. Ultimately, they did not have the resources to respond to all the interest shown or to generate further interest.
Supporting clients to influence policy and practice directly
In addition to their own influencing work, several SIRD projects had been supporting service users to have their voice heard and influence how self-directed support is being embedded in their own local authority area or more widely. That had, in fact, been the main focus of one of them.
Examples of this work included:
- Supporting clients to make collective representations on issues of concern to local decision makers. This involved bringing those local decision makers together with user groups or peer support groups. Some projects reported doing this collectively with other local organisations, building on their existing voluntary sector relationships.
- A similar approach, but at a national level. For example, one project had supported clients to meet with members of a Cross-Parliamentary Group at the Scottish Parliament.
Personal development projects also highlighted occasions when service users had gone on to become members of the local Integrated Joint Boards, be elected as a local councillor, or set up a local voluntary sector organisation.